A reader in Croatia kindly sent me photos of this cast brass and enamel cross.
If you read my previous posting on cross inscriptions ( https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/the-instant-expert-in-russian-crosses), you will find some of that material repeated here.
First, this is a “Priestless” (Bezpopovtsy) Old Believer cross of the type called an “altar cross” (напрестольный крест — naprestol’nuiy krest). One can tell it is a “Priestless” cross by looking at the image at the very top. It is the “Not Made by Hands” image of Jesus on the cloth, the so-called “Abgar” image that resulted from the old story that Jesus once pressed a cloth to his face, which became miraculously imprinted on the cloth, and was thus the first Christian icon. If this had been a “Priested” (Popovtsy) Old Believer casting, it would instead have a top image of Lord Sabaoth (God the Father) and the Holy Spirit as a dove; and it would also have the I. N. TS. I inscription that abbreviates Pilate’s text “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (Исус Назорянин, Царь Иудейский ).
(Courtesy of Nino Rilović)
Let’s take a closer look at the top of the cross:
We see the “Not Made by Hands” image, with the halo of Jesus having the HO ON inscription, meaning “He Who Is.” Just below it is a Church Slavic inscription identifying the image:
If we join the two lines as they should be, they read:
Obraz Nerukotvorrenuiy, menaing “[the] IMAGE NOT-HAND-MADE,” or in more normal English, “The Image Not Made by Hands.”
Below that are two flying angels, bowing toward the crucified Jesus, their hands covered with cloths to show reverence. Their abbreviated inscription reads:
ANGLI GOSPODNI (remember that a doubled Г Г is pronounced like English “ng”)
“Angels of the Lord”
And just below the two angels is the abbreviated inscription:
“KING OF GLORY.”
1 Corinthians 2:8 reads:
“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.“
Now let’s look at the middle portion. At the top, we see the IC XC abbreviation for “Jesus Christ,” Remember that while the Old Believers use the , Ісусъ [Isus] spelling, the Russian State Church uses Іисусъ [Iisus]. and “Christ” is Христос — Khristos.
Below the IC XC are these words:
“Son of God.”
At left we see the sun, and beneath it is its name:
At right is the moon, with its name:
Below is a long inscription that runs all the way along the main crossbar. We will begin with the left side:
КРЕСТУ ТВОЕМУ ПОКЛАНАЕМСЯ ВЛАДИКО
KRESTOU TVOEMOU POKLANAEMSYA VLADIKO
Cross Of-You We-Bow-Before Master, or in better English,
“We bow before your cross, Master…” (Vladiko means “Ruler,” “Master.”)
It is often translated simply, “We honor/venerate your cross, Lord…”
And it finishes on the right side:
И СВЯАТОЕ ВОСКРЕСЕНИЕ СЛАВИМЪ
I SVYATOE VOSCKRESENIE SLAVIM”
…And your holy resurrection we-praise
“…And praise your holy resurrection.”
So all together, the inscription reads:
“We bow before your cross, Master, and Praise your holy resurrection.”
It is a common text, found in the Liturgy of John Chrysostom as well as in that of Basil, and repeated in the liturgy of the Third Week in Lent, etc.
In the lower portion of the upright beam, we see at left a spear, and at right a sponge on a reed. By the spear is the letter K, abbreviating КОПИЕ — KOPIE, meaning “lance,” “spear.” And by the sponge is the letter T, abbreviating ТРОСТЬ — TROST’, meaning the reed/rod, with the sponge at its top.
In and near the lower crossbar, we see the walls and roofs of Jerusalem, and the letters НИКА — NIKA — Greek for “He Conquers.”
At the base of the upright we see these letters:
[The] Place [of the] Skull Paradise Became
In normal English, “The Place of the Skull became Paradise.” “Lobnoe” is often more loosely translated as “Execution” or Judgment,” but Mesto Lobnoe refers to the place commonly called Calvary in English, from the Latin Calvariæ Locus, “Skull Place.”
That leads us to the final two inscriptions.
At the sides of the base of the cross are the letters
“Hill [of] Golgotha”
“Golgotha” ultimately derived from the Aramaic Gagultâ, meaning “skull.”
Remember that Church Slavic (like Russian) has no “th” sound, so it is replaced with the “f” sound.
Just below the base of the cross is an opening in which lies a skull. This follows the tradition that the Crucifixion happened at the center of the earth, and that was supposedly where the biblical first man, Adam, was buried. So the skull is that of Adam. And at the sides of the skull are the letters
[the] SKULL (literally “head”) [of] ADAM
Some crosses (like this one) have a little plant at the base, a sprout of new life.
Now let’s look at the reverse inscription, which is the one most commonly found on these Old Believer brass crosses:
(Courtesy of Nino Rilović)
Though it has some variations in spelling (these are common), it is the standard text of the Octoechos: Exapostilarion, Monday Matins, found also in the Prayer of the Praise of the Cross (Похвала кресту — Pokhvala krestu) — which is:
Крест хранитель всей вселенной;
Krest khranitel’ vsey vselennoy
Крест красота церковная;
Krest krasota tserkovnaya
Крест царем держава;
Krest tsarem derzhava
Крест верным утверждение;
Krest vernuim utverzhdenie
Крест ангелом слава;
Krest angelom slava
Крест бесом язва.
Krest besom yazva
“The Cross is the protector of the whole universe,
the Cross is the beauty of the Church,
the Cross is the might of kings,
the Cross is the confirmation of the faithful,
the Cross is the glory of angels and scourge of demons”
(Octoechos: Exapostilarion, Monday Matins — Festal Matins for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
At the base of the inscription we see another eight-pointed cross (the Old Believers would not accept the Latin cross). Though again the spelling is off, it has the usual abbreviations:
“KING OF GLORY.”
“Son of God.”
We see the letters K and T for Kopie and Trost‘ (spear and reed/rod).
Note that they have reversed the positions of the letters in the М Л / Р Б abbreviation for Mesto Lobnoe Ray Buist, but the meaning is the same — “The Place of the Skull Became Paradise.”
Finally there are the letters Г Г for Gora Golgofa, “Hill of Golgotha.”
I mentioned earlier that the example discussed in this posting is an “altar cross.” It is useful to know that cast metal Russian crosses are generally classified as follows:
1. The altar cross (Напрестольный Крест — Naprestol’nuiy Krest): it is placed on the altar beside the Gospel book. These are the large crosses one often sees.
2. The pectoral cross (Нагрудный Крест — Nagrudnuiy Krest, or Наперсный Крест, Napersnuiy Krest). These are the small to medium-sized crosses with a loop or hole at the top, so they may be worn on a cord or chain about the neck. They are worn both by the clergy (priests, monks) and by certain pious people.
3. The kiot or “ark” cross ( Киотный Крест — Kiotnuiy Krest): These are the crosses placed on the shelf in the “beautiful corner” of a room, along with the family icons. They are of medium size, and have no hole or loop at the top. They may also be taken on trips as a kind of temporary prayer focus. They include those crosses one sees with side panels showing Martha and Mary (“Mother of God”) on the left of the Crucifixion and the Apostle John and Centurion Longinos (Login) at the right. Kiot crosses are sometimes commonly known as “house crosses.”
4. The body cross (Тельный крест — Telnuiy Krest): These are the usually quite small crosses with a hole or loop at the top, worn around the neck on a cord or chain, and given to each person at baptism. So any Russian Orthodox person wore a body cross.